Service to Country, Service to Clients a Mission for Rocky Saxbe '75
A war veteran, successful politician and record-setting lawyer, Charles “Rocky” Saxbe ’75 says he has always prided himself on his dedication to service. “I’ve always wanted to serve my friends, my community and my country,” he says. The son of William B. Saxbe ’48, former Ohio Attorney General and U.S. Attorney General, has geared his life towards just that.
Rocky spent three years in U.S. Marine Corps following graduation from Southern Methodist University in 1969, including serving in Vietnam. After returning to the U.S., he decided to pursue a law degree. The choice was simple, with both parents being OSU alumni. “I was surprised and delighted to get into OSU,” he says. But that was not as surprising as what would happen next.
The incumbent state representative in Champaign County (Ohio) dropped out of the election and Rocky was asked to step in. “Proud of my father's public service and not unmindful that he too had been elected to the same seat while in law school at Ohio State, I took the plunge,” he says. “By the time that opportunity presented itself, I was in the second semester of my second year,” he says. “I figured I’d be able to do it if I could reach a balance. My attitude was that I’d survived Vietnam – nothing could be harder than that.” Rocky would go on to win a tight five-way primary by fewer than 300 votes, and the general election. He would be re-elected three more times.
While in office, he set up a small-town practice in Mechanicsburg. “It was a great reintroduction to my community,” he says. “At that point, I’d been away for more than 10 years. I met a lot of good people. It was a true general practice.”
Rocky stayed in politics until 1982, when he lost the race for Ohio attorney general. Jack Chester offered him a job with his firm, now known as Chester Willcox & Saxbe LLP and Rocky has been there ever since.
Though a few years removed from public service, Rocky says the role of lawyers as elected officials has never been more important, yet balancing a private practice with public office has become increasingly difficult.
“Twenty-five years ago it was more appropriate to be a ‘citizen legislator,’ splitting time between the statehouse and the job back in the district, living a life and earning a living like an ordinary citizen … Fewer lawyers are able or interested in splitting their lives between their private and public responsibilities.”
He says he still sees a place for the lawyer – with their understanding and appreciation of why and how the law is made and applied – in public service. “Lawyer legislators with their practical and professional experience can temper the debate and develop workable solutions that will be upheld later by a reviewing court,” he notes.
Since leaving office, Rocky concentrates on corporate litigation and white-collar crime defense, as well as in political and public cases. In 1997, he represented Ohio in the national tobacco litigation, which resulted in a $10 billion settlement. “I don’t expect to top that amount,” he says.
Of course, Rocky says he could not have done any of it were it not for his wife of 35 years, Suzy. They have two children, Sarah and Jake—a 2005 Moritz graduate.
“I never expected to enjoy practicing law, counseling in legal matters as much as I have,” he says. “I’ve developed an appetite, a passion for law.”